Fox News senior strategic analyst and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane said Wednesday that it was “overwhelming” to be named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“I was, to be frank about it, shocked and overwhelmed by it. No one expects an honor like this, and I frankly I told him ‘I don’t think I deserve it, to be honest with you.’,” he told Benson. “And he [Trump] said, ‘You know, someone told me that you were going to say that.'”
“[L]ike any award that you receive, they’re very humbling experiences and you just immediately think of, you know, all the people that really helped you along the way to do whatever you were trying to do with your life,” said Keane, a decorated veteran who has received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, five Legions of Merit and the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, among other honors.
Born in New York City, Keane graduated from Fordham University and receive a master’s degree from Western Kentucky University. He also attended the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
In a statement, the White House called Keane a “well-respected foreign policy and national security expert” who “devoted his life to keeping America safe and strong.”
“I’m no different than anybody else out there,” Keane told Benson. “You know, I have a lot of love in my life and a lot of purpose and meaning associated with trying to protect this country as a soldier and then trying to also advocate for the security of the country as a retired general officer and foreign policy and national security analyst. So, it’s overwhelming, to be honest with you.”
The 77-year-old explained that he discovered his “aptitude” for the military “as a result of ROTC” while in college.
“I volunteered for Vietnam, off to the war I went, and was confronted with the seriousness of human life and what it means to all of us and I became a training zealot as a result of it and enormously respectful of human life given the fact that I was involved in an enterprise that was taking human life,” he continued. “And as a result of that, it was the major turning point in my life. It changed me completely.”
Keane retired from military service in 2003 but has since served as an informal adviser to presidents and other top U.S. officials. In addition to his role with Fox News, he is also the chairman of the board of the Institute for the Study of War.
“For the next 16 years [after retirement],” he told Benson, “I was driven by having been in the Pentagon on 9/11 and lost 85 teammates, so I saw up close what this war [on terror] was about. It became personal for me and I never let go of that emotion I felt about that loss of life and it drove me to stay involved in national security in a way that I never actually imagined I would do as a retired officer. So here I am, 16 years later and I’m still engaged in it.”
Trump will formally award Keane the medal next week.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.